Don Walton: Tax reform and prison reform present tough challenges

Don Walton: Tax reform and prison reform present tough challenges


Tax reform and prison reform, both heavy legislative lifts.

One requires a balance of economic, regional and political interests; the other requires a reality check.

So far, the legislative play call for both has always been simple: Punt.

Prison reform looks like the easier challenge to resolve with a combination of increased funding now — at a time when state government already has the revenue in hand or on the way — and when sentencing reform legislation is on the floor and sitting in the Legislature's lap.

Prisons already are overcrowded and the population is growing and prison programming is overwhelmed and the future threatens to be just building more prison space, adding more prisoners, overwhelming staffing and programming, and then more of the same.

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

That quote is usually attributed to Albert Einstein — who online sites will tell you actually never really said it. 

But he did say this: "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."

* * *

Essentially ignored in the wake of presidential impeachment proceedings in both the Senate and the House is the surrender of power and authority by the legislative branch.

Three separate, but equal branches? Not if the executive branch can simply ignore Congress, stiff congressional subpoenas, deny requests for submission of documents, essentially dismiss all legislative authority.

"I have an Article 2 where I have the right to do whatever I want as president," Donald Trump has said, forecasting a future that may contain some dark clouds.

But didn't the Founders settle this a long time ago?

No all-powerful executive with unrestricted power.

No king.

* * *

Finishing up:

* Tax policy is complicated: A "summary" of the Revenue Committee's property tax relief and state school aid reform bill is nine pages long.

* Members of the Legislature's Agriculture Committee will receive a briefing on the health of the State Fair on Tuesday.

* If endorsement money is going to become part of a college athlete's recruiting decision, Nebraska's small population base will put the Huskers at a big disadvantage.

* Lincoln's strong 62% vote in support of a $290 million school bond issue is the latest reminder that we live in a progressive community that values and supports its children and its public school system.

* Name the new high schools: Capital City High School? Abraham High? Pioneer High?

* William Barr appears to be building a little distance now; makes you wonder if that's a misleading display of independence or if he had a midnight visit from John Mitchell, the Ghost of Attorneys General Past.

* Former Secretary of State John Kerry will join former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at the second annual Chuck Hagel Forum in Global Leadership at UNO on Feb. 26. The Hagel Forum debuted last year with former Vice President Joe Biden; Hagel is a UNO graduate.

* A 43-0 vote advancing Sen. Ernie Chambers' legislative bill requiring two hours of racial-profiling anti-bias training for law enforcement personnel annually was a vote of respect.

* Yes, more prison space and funding is needed, but how did we get to a place in our society where that is the priority need over more funding for education at a time when the state has unanticipated revenue?

* And now it's just 30 days until spring and 37 days until Opening Day.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or

On Twitter @LJSdon


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